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Book on Trudeau paints him as modern Twain, Nast

Kerry Soper has written a book entitled “Garry Trudeau: Doonesbury and the Aesthetics of Satire” which argues that social satire is vital to a democratic society and that Garry Trudeau’s work with Doonesbury should rank up there with Mark Twain, Walt Kelly and Thomas Nast.

A full review of the book can be found on the Deseret News web site:

It is Soper’s contention that “the survival of popular, independent satire is critical to the health of an open, democratic society,” meaning that Trudeau ought to be saluted by the public, whether in agreement or not.

Soper even puts Trudeau in the same league as Voltaire, Mark Twain and Thomas Nast. He compares his work to Walt Kelly’s “Pogo” and Al Capp’s “Li’l Abner” in its consistent political and topical point of view. Like Trudeau, both Kelly and Capp had their share of battles with editors and executives who were wary of publishing some their strips.

The book is listed as having 224 pages with numerous reprints of Garry’s work as illustrations.

Editorial Note: Kerry was an award winning college cartoonist while at Utah State University a couple of years before I started there back in the 90’s. He’s gone on to get a Ph.D and teaches “social & cultural history, satire, and popular visual arts (film, photography, illustration, comic strips)” as a professor at Brigham Young University’s Department of Humanities.

Community Comments

#1 Wiley Miller
August/19/2008
@ 9:30 am

I have long contended that Garry Trudeau has been the most effective editorial cartoonist over the past 35 years. Note that I said “most effective”, not “best”, as I don’t believe is such a thing as a “best” cartoonist in any field.

I think Henry Kissinger summed it up best when he said, “the only thing worse than waking up in the morning and seeing your name in ‘Doonesbury’ is to waking up and NOT seeing your name in ‘Doonesbury’.

#2 Peter Murphey
August/19/2008
@ 10:11 am

For once I agree whole heartedly with Wiley in his evaluation, although not his terminology. Trudeau is the “most effective” editorial cartoonist out there, but I would have no problem saying that he’s the “best” as well. I think his strength lies in his ability to write consistent, and well developed characters who give depth and humanity to his editorial skewering. Often, political strips are only about the polemic and that can get tired and empty pretty quickly.

#3 Wiley Miller
August/19/2008
@ 12:23 pm

Well, I suppose that one could argue that being the “most effective” editorial cartoonist would make him “the best”, it’s just that I don’t like such imperial and absolute pronouncements on something so subjective as art. But I don’t think there’s much doubt that Trudeau’s work has driven more political discourse than any other cartoonist in his time.

It always amuses me when I hear from angry right wingers, lashing out at me by accusing me of being “another Doonesbury”. That’s supposed to be an insult?

#4 Peter Murphey
August/19/2008
@ 12:43 pm

I agree, absolute pronouncements can be a dangerous thing
in the art field but so can the “everything is good because it’s all a matter of taste” mindset.

“It always amuses me when I hear from angry right wingers, lashing out at me by accusing me of being â??another Doonesburyâ?. Thatâ??s supposed to be an insult?”

You should only be worried if they try to praise you with “Mallard Fillmore” comparisons.

#5 Ted Rall
August/19/2008
@ 2:23 pm

I agree with Wiley. The word “best” should be permanently retired from discussions about cartoons, and other artforms. That includes awards for “best cartoon” or “best cartoonist,” as well as books called things like “best cartoons of…”

The reason for this is simple. No one ever has, and no ever can, agree on who and what is best. Until everyone–every single human, ever–can agree on such a thing, the term is needlessly inciting, not to mention inaccurate.

#6 Garey Mckee
August/19/2008
@ 2:39 pm

I think that’s the best point Wiley’s ever made. Hey, wait a minute…

#7 Peter Murphey
August/19/2008
@ 3:19 pm

“The reason for this is simple. No one ever has, and no ever can, agree on who and what is best. Until everyoneâ??every single human, everâ??can agree on such a thing, the term is needlessly inciting, not to mention inaccurate.”

I don’t think that’s reason enough to cut poor old “best” from the staff. I think it’s subjectivity is a given as it is a term of opinion
or high praise not an absolute measure. “Shakespeare is the most ‘effective’ playwright of all times,” is just as subjective an opinion as “best” but it lacks a certain power, which that opinion is deserving of.

Maybe instead “best” could become a subcontractor and be hired on a part time basis.

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